The problem with “‘Salem’s Lot”

While I haven’t had as much time to read lately as I wished I had, I’ve been able to complete Stephen King’s “’Salem’s Lot” the other day. I used to be a huge King fan 25 years or so ago but have sadly lost interest in his writing after a number of consecutive books I read of his were becoming overly tedious for me to work through – namely “Insomnia” and “The Stand” come to mind.

I remembered that “’Salem’s Lot” used to be one of my favorites so I decided to reread the novel after all these years to see how I felt about it. It was an interesting experiment and the result was very different than I expected. I expected to find the book as great as when I first read it. Sadly that was not quite the case. From the beginning I noticed that even in this story King’s penchant for overly inflated prose came through. In fact, to my surprise, the entire first quarter of the book is dedicated solely to exposition. There is absolutely nothing happening and the reader is presented with details that, I felt, were absolutely redundant. Discussing the history of the Lot is all nice and good, but do we really need to know who owned a particular parcel of land 50 years ago and that the guy liked to be in his drink watching the sunset over a brook that meanders down a particular piece of forest before it reaches another parcel of land that used to be owned by this guy who once crashed his horse carriage in a barn because… Well, you get the drift.

All of this really didn’t do much for me and neither did the last third of the book which is made up of seemingly unrelated stories and events that have only marginally to do with the main plot and could easily have been omitted. Some of the material is interesting to read – other parts are not – but overall they add little to the main story of the book and somehow reminded me of deleted scenes and alternate endings you would find on DVDs, or maybe simple writing exercises to elaborate on the overall world of the book.

By the same token, I do love the main plot of “’Salem’s Lot” and think that King has an incredibly cool story on his hands there, but as so often, I really think he lets the way he is telling the story get in the way with the story itself. I don’t want to diss the book but “’Salem’s Lot” would have been a much more enjoyable read, in my opinion, if King would have tightened up his prose and would focus a little more on what is relevant. But at the same time, I have to wonder, of course, who am I to criticize Stephen King? Honestly, I don’t have an answer to that, but I know what I like and I can tell when a book bores me.  “’Salem’s Lot” did both…

Recently I’ve discovered a new series for me to read – that is, it is new to me. It is Naomi Novik’s series of Temeraire books. I stumbled upon it by accident, browsing the shelves at Barnes&Noble. The cover intrigued my and the flap copy immediately got me intrigued. Any book that mixes dragons with Napoleonic naval adventures is instantly getting my attention. As a result I looked into it a little more and found out that it is an entire series of books, at last count up to six volumes. With that in mind, despite reading the most current entry in the series I decided to start at the beginning with “His Majesty’s Dragon,” which now graces my Kindle. So far I do like it a lot. Novik has a very easy, fluid style that makes it very fun to read the book and lose yourself in the story. I have really high hopes for this series…


3 Replies to “The problem with “‘Salem’s Lot””

  1. Guido

    It’s not that I dislike his books. In fact when reading “‘Salem’s Lot” I just realized again how much I like HOW he writes stuff. I remember I read a scene in “It!” or so years and years ago where he described how someone was throwing up and I swear I could taste the bile in my mouth just by reading it.
    It is more a matter of me sometimes disagreeing with WHAT he writes.

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